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Butternut Squash Spice Cake with Amaretto Glaze Recipe

Butternut Spice Cake

Ranks of gray misty rain march up the valley, the cats who are not ours are huddled on the porch, and I swear night fell about 3:30 this afternoon. Perfect weather for having the oven on all day - and between roasting the squash and baking the cake, I have an excuse to warm up my kitchen for a few hours. (I am only doing it so I can get a non-Halloween image; I promise we will not enjoy the cake at all. Really.)

I adapted this recipe a few weeks ago, when some good friends celebrated the tenth anniversary of their move to the fog valley with a potluck. The only request was that we use locally produced food if possible, something that is not exactly a stretch for most people around here, although mid-October isn't exactly the time of prime produce. I wanted to make dessert but the only fruit on hand was apples and pears, neither of which got me too excited. The squash, however, was abundant and diverse.

Starting with a recipe for a sweet potato cake, I swapped in squash, reduced the oil and added applesauce for moisture, then tossed in a hefty dose of fresh spices. After infusing the olive oil with sweet bay, I toasted and ground cardamon, then grated ginger and nutmeg. The squash and applesauce make for a moist, but not heavy, cake; and the mix of fresh spices make me swoon. Iced, this is a cake worthy of a party; unadorned it could be served as a coffeecake.


Butternut Spice Cake with Amaretto Glaze

The rich mix of sweet butternut and layers of fresh spice flavors in this versatile cake tastes like fall to me. Try it as a single layer with a simple amaretto glaze, or make a traditional layer cake with cream cheese frosting. The extra effort to infuse the oil with bay, toast whole cardamom seeds, and grind fresh spices is not as fussy as it sounds, and the difference in aroma and flavor is well worth it. Pumpkin or other squash can be substituted for the butternut, depending on what is available in your locale.



1/2 cup olive oil

3-4 fresh sweet bay leaves

2 cups butternut squash puree

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup applesauce

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Infuse oil


Put olive oil into a small microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave, in 5 second bursts, until the oil is just too hot to touch, but be careful not to overheat - test by touching the side of the bowl, not the oil. Take bowl out of microwave, toss in the gently crushed bay leaves, cover the bowl and let it sit for 30-60 minutes. Remove the leaves, wiping the oil off the leaves back into the bowl.

Make Butternut Squash Puree


Cut squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds, poke a few holes in the skin side and lay cut side down on a foil-lined baking dish. Bake in a 350 oven until very tender, about an hour. Let the squash cool and scoop out the pulp, discarding the skin. Puree the squash in a food processor if you have one. If not, smash it like you would mashed potatoes and strain it through a colander to catch any remaining large pieces. Extra puree can be frozen in an airtight container for several months.

Making Cake


  1. Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare 2 9" layer pans or one large (12 cup) bundt pan with either nonstick spray or butter.
  2. Beat 2 cups of squash puree, sugar, applesauce and oil until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each one. Stir in ginger and vanilla.
  3. Sift flour, cardamom, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt together..Gently stir in flour mixture until just blended.
  4. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 40 minutes for layers, or an hour for large bundt pan.
  5. Cool cake in pan on rack about 15 minutes. Run a small knife around the sides of pan to loosen cake. Turn out onto rack and cool completely before glazing.

Amaretto Glaze


Put about one cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl. Gradually mix in about 1 tablespoon of amaretto until the glaze runs off the spoon in a thick, smooth stream. Add a little extra sugar or amaretto if needed. Spoon icing thickly over top of cake, allowing icing to drip down sides of cake. Let stand for an hour or so to let the glaze set.

Adapted from Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Brown Sugar Icing from Epicurious.

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